iOS has been able to multitask for quite a long time (since iOS 4, to be exact), although it was not initially possible to switch between apps on your iPhone in an efficient manner, and those apps certainly couldn’t function in the background. Things have been changing steadily after the introduction of the App Switcher tray though. Having said that, no iOS update has changed multitasking as much as the newly released iOS 7. Everything from the way background apps behave to the UI of the App Switcher has been revamped. You might not notice all the changes right away, but multitasking has certainly gone smart after the update. Your iPhone learns from your daily routine and the frequency of app usage, and keeps the more important apps active exactly when you need them. In addition to that, the App Store can be configured to automatically update your apps without even asking for your permission, and that too without adversely affecting your device’s battery life.
The method of invoking the App Switcher hasn’t changed in iOS 7, but that’s where the similarities with past versions of iOS end. As soon as you double-tap the Home button, an array of different cards shows up, each representing an app you have used recently. The card shows the app or game’s state where it was last left, and you can scroll through the collection by swiping across the screen horizontally.
Apple has made it more convenient than before to kill apps. Instead of long-pressing icons, you can just swipe upwards on a card to remove it from the App Switcher. Just like Windows Phone 8, the App Switcher has a card representing the Home screen, although you obviously cannot kill that one.
When it comes to the way multitasking works, there have been a lot of interesting changes from the ground up. Previously, iOS only refreshed apps when you launched them, but iOS 7 is smart enough to preload new content for certain apps if you use them frequently and around the same times each day. If you think that background refresh is taking a heavy toll on your device’s battery, turning the feature off for some or all apps is fairly straightforward from the ‘Background App Refresh’ menu added to the General section of Settings. Among the preinstalled apps, iOS 7 is capable of automatically refreshing Stocks and Weather.
The smart multitasking shows itself in the App Store quite prominently. When you launch the Store for the first time after updating to iOS 7, an alert shows up offering you to turn automatic updates on. Even if you skip it from there, the feature can be toggled at any time from the ‘iTunes & App Store’ section of the Settings app. These automatic updates occur when your device is on charging, in order to avoid taxing the battery too much. It is also possible to limit these downloads to Wi-Fi to save on data costs.
Multitasking might not be among the biggest changes in iOS 7, but the feature is sure to help users a lot in their daily lives, and you can’t deny that the new App Switcher looks much cooler than the previous tray.
This post is one part of a compilation. For info on other major new features and changes introduced in the latest iteration of Apple’s mobile OS, check out our complete iOS 7 guide.